The challenge is real. See how other working mamas made pumping work for them.
Returning to work—and being away from your baby—is difficult no matter how you feed him or her. But for working moms who breastfeed, pumping at work may pose a unique set of challenges. Let two lactation experts help you solve the most common pumping problems you're likely to encounter at work, so you spend less time stressing about pumping logistics and more time taking good care of your baby.
Problem #1: There's no place to pump.
Solution: If your workplace doesn't already have an appropriate place to pump, Christine Staricka, a registered lactation consultant in Bakersfield, California, recommends proposing specific suggestions to management, ideally before you return to work. "If you notice unused space, ask if it could be re-purposed as a lactation room," she said. "Alternatively, suggest a portable station or indoor pod like the Mamava Suite." If these aren't practical at your workplace, inquire about borrowing an office or other empty room for privacy (just be sure to hang a "Do Not Disturb Sign" on the door). No refrigerator? No problem. Store expressed milk in a cooler with ice packs.
Problem #2: There's no time to pump.
Solution: Finding the time to pump at work can be challenging, especially if you're trying to pump as often as baby nurses, which can mean 15 to 30 minutes multiple times a day. That's why it's important to come up with a pumping schedule and discuss it with your supervisor ahead of time so you can set expectations and get the support you need. Invest in a hands-free pumping bra so you can answer emails, participate in conference calls, review paperwork or even eat lunch while you pump. And, be open to arriving a little earlier or staying a little later to make up for time spent pumping.
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Problem #3: You're not pumping enough milk.
Solution: Many working moms experience a dwindling milk supply simply because the breast pump doesn't maintain milk supply as effectively as a nursing baby. The best way to boost your supply, according to Karin Cadwell, Ph.D., the executive director of Healthy Children's Center for Breastfeeding, is to power pump in the evening when prolactin levels — the hormone that initiates and maintains milk production — are highest. "Spend two hours in front of the TV and pump during every commercial break," Dr. Cadwell said. (If baby is awake, pump on one side while he or she nurses on the other.) "Your body will get the message that you have a very hungry baby who needs to nurse every 15 minutes, and it will make more milk."
Problem #4: Your job requires travel.
Solution: Breastfeeding and traveling for work can be tricky, but there are lots of ways to make it work. Look into a breast milk delivery service like MilkStork.com so you can easily express-ship breast milk home if your baby needs it—your employer may even be willing to subsidize the cost! If you're transporting the milk yourself, check the TSA website for guidelines about packing and transporting breastfeeding equipment and expressed milk. And, don't forget to plan ahead: "Leave plenty of extra time for security checkpoints, and remember to plan for your own nourishment on long traveling days," Staricka said.
Problem #5: Your employer is unsupportive of your need to pump at work.
Solution: Some employers fail to provide employees with the space and time needed to pump breast milk at work, even though current regulations under the Affordable Care Act requires employers with over 50 employees to provide a suitable place (that's not the bathroom!), and enough break time to do it. "A lot of women are afraid to speak up because they are afraid of reprisals," Dr. Cadwell said. "But it could be that the employer is simply unfamiliar with breastfeeding laws." That's why it's so important to learn and understand your rights as a breastfeeding mom in the workplace from resources like the United States Breastfeeding Committee so you can clearly communicate your needs to your employer. If the company still fails to provide support, you can seek help from your state's labor agency or breastfeeding coalition to make sure you are treated fairly and within state and federal protections.
Pumping at work doesn't have to be stressful. If you have any concerns or questions, seek help from a qualified lactation professional. And, don't forget to seek out other breastfeeding moms in your workplace — they can be a tremendous source of information and support.